Pentax K1 Review

Pentax K 1 Review: is it great for Landscape Photography?

Ricoh released its Pentax K-1 in February 2016, introducing one of their full-frame DSLR’s most suitable for landscape photography and astrophotography.

Making the most out of the movable, 36.2 MP full-frame CMOS sensor, the Pentax has a set of impressing features hidden in its sturdy, functional design that performs well in most weather circumstances.

Although not the lightest body in the field, this camera is very affordable for a full frame, which makes it a very good option for the professional landscape photographer on a slight budget.

Pentax K1

PROS

  • Moveable, full frame 36.2 MP CMOS sensor
  • Fully articulated LCD screen with 1037k dots resolution
  • Sturdy, functional design
  • Long battery life 

CONS

  • Big heavy body 
  • No touch screen

The Pentax K 1 detailed review

36.2 MP CMOS Sensor

With this camera Ricoh has really managed to make full use of a full-frame, high resolution sensor.

Not only is the CMOS of a high resolution of 36.2MP, the sensor is also movable, allowing for a set of impressive features very beneficial for landscape - and astrophotographers.

Sensor Shift

First off, the camera lacks the Optical Low Pass filter, to enhance image sharpness. However, to avoid moiré, the movable sensor is able of simulating the anti-moiré effects of an Optical Low Pass filter.

By a slight vibration of the sensor during exposure, the image is slightly softened and moiré is prevented, without the side effects of loss of image sharpness. A very ingenious invention from the Pentax team, and highly beneficial for sharp landscape images.

​Pixel Shift

Another feature enabled by the movable sensor is the Pixel Shift Resolution mode. When activating this mode, the camera will shoot 4 consecutive images with the sensor moved by one pixel.

This will not only greatly enhance the color resolution; it also lowers noise and cancels the Bayer color filter array.

Horizon Correction

Next up is one of my favorite new features on this camera: the horizon correction. One of my biggest pet peeves is a beautiful image but a crooked horizon – with this feature that would no longer be for me to worry about.

When enabling the horizon correction, the camera will detect when it´s held slightly crooked, and rotate the sensor to make sure the horizon is on a perfectly straight horizontal line in the image.

Astrophotography​

Finally, the movable sensor is a great help with astrophotography. Using the camera´s built-in GPS, the sensor is able to move in such a way that cancels out the effects of the earth´s rotation when shooting the stars with a long exposure.

This makes for perfectly clear night-sky images, without any star-trails.

Metering Sensor​

Adding to the sensors great characteristics is the 86000-pixel RGB metering sensor, enabling 77-segment metering.

This does not only help along the camera´s AF, it provides a scene-analysis and subject detection to yield outstandingly accurate exposures.

Camera Body

When we take a look at the outside of the well-designed body, the first thing that draws in the attention is the fully-articulated LCD screen.

This is one of this camera´s biggest strengths when it comes to the design, and you can tell that they really put some extra thought into it. The bright, 3.2” LCD uses a Cross-Tilt mechanism, allowing it to extend outwards and rotate into a huge variety of angles.

This allows for some great weird-angle shooting without losing sight of your image, something I've always been a huge fan of.

pentax K 1 review

When moving the LCD screen outward, some of the camera´s many LED lights are revealed, conveniently illuminating the control buttons on the back of the camera.

More LEDs are added all over the camera, shining their light on the lens mount, card bay and remote release port.

These little lights could very well turn out to be a huge help when you are out shooting at night, trying to make the most of this camera´s Astrotracer system, and still want to be able to see your camera´s controls and ports.

Camera Controls

Taking a look at the top of the camera, the first thing I notice is the three control dials within easy reach, allowing you to change the camera´s ISO, f-stop and shutter speed without ever going near a menu.

I love being able to change settings quickly and easily, it just makes your workflow so much more comfortable and releases you from the torture of dense-menu-navigating.

Also great when shooting hand-held, so you don´t have to move the camera away from your face if you need to correct your exposure.

The camera also has a very comfortable grip for hand-held shooting, with a deep grip and nicely curved thumb-rest for a natural position.

The built-in optical viewfinder also adds to the great hand-held experience, with a 100% coverage and a very bright and clear image.

However, the camera is quite large and heavy (with a weight of 1010 grams and measurements of 110 x 137 x 86mm), making it quite a challenge to travel around with.

This might be a big con for landscape photographers that hike around a lot, since carrying a lot of weight can become a big struggle after a few hours uphill.

But, this camera does have a fairly long battery life of 760 shots, meaning there is less need for extra batteries than there would be with most mirrorless cameras.

Another minor setback is the lack of touch sensitivity on the LCD screen, meaning less ease when choosing the autofocus point.

Alternatives

Nikon D810

Photography Ambition

One of the K-1´s biggest rivals: the Nikon D810. An established camera for landscape photography, and for good reason; the D810 sports a full frame 36MP CMOS sensor, has an outstanding battery life of 1200 shots, a weather sealed body and no Optical Low Pass filer.

Like the K-1, it has a very bright 3.2” LCD screen, however it does not rotate and also has no touch sensitivity.

The body is also quite heavy, but with 980 grams slightly lighter than the Pentax.

For star-shooters amongst us, the Nikon D810a might be a better option as it is completely optimized for astrophotography.

Check out the detailed review here

Sony a7R II

Photography Ambition

A very popular mirrorless camera and a rival to many, with a high resolution (42.4MP) full frame Exmor R BSI-CMOS sensor, no Optical Low Pass filter and 5-axis Sensor-shift image stabilization.

All this makes for an extremely sharp image, but the camera is also capable of 4k video recording and has a functional body design made for shooting with ease.

The screen is slightly smaller than the one on the K-1 with 2”, but the camera makes up for it by having an electronic viewfinder as opposed to an optical one.

This camera would be more suitable for an all-round photographer that does not have a special interest in astrophotography, as you´d be better off with the customized options of the K-1 for that field.

The Sony a7R II is very suitable for brighter shooting conditions however, since the ISO sensitivity can be dropped down to 50, allowing you to use long exposure without the need of a neutral density filter.

Read our full review here

Canon EOS 5Dr

Canon 5DSR

Another full frame DSLR that seems designed specifically to suit all the landscape photographer’s needs.

This camera has the highest resolution sensor in this list, beating even the Sony with a 51MP CMOS sensor.

The 5Ds does not have an articulating screen however, and also lacks the electronic viewfinder. Instead it has a built-in optical viewfinder and a bright, 3.2” fixed type screen.

The body is sturdy; like we´re used to with Canon´s DSLR´s it can take a hit and functions well in many weather conditions. It is slightly lighter than the K-1, but with 930 grams still no feather to hike up mountains with.

This camera will suit your needs if you want one of the highest resolution sensors out there, and are not someone specializing in astrophotography.

Check out the detailed review here

Conclusions

The Pentax K1 has one of the best price-quality ratios I've witnessed so far, being only (roughly 1.800 USD at the time we write this review) for a full frame DSLR able producing very high-quality images.

The movable 36.2 MP sensor and the features it enables (the anti-aliasing filter simulation, the Pixel Shift Resolution mode, the Horizon Correction and the Astrotracer system) along with the sturdy and functional body design, make this on of the most suitable cameras for landscape- and astrophotography.

I highly recommend this camera to any landscape photographer, landscape photographers with an interest in night shooting and professional astrophotographers.

Pentax K1 Review

Check out more Camera Reviews here 

About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

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